Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bye-bye, Time Out

With this post, I am not about to tell you that you're doing it wrong.

I'm not going to tell you that your method for disciplining your child is inferior to mine. 

I'm not going to suggest that you change what's working for your family. 

I'm just going to tell you about something we've done recently in response to an ever growing problem of finding an effective means of discipline and instruction for our child. 

Time outs don't work for The Boy. They do not teach him anything but to get angry with his parents. His immediate thought when placed in time out is not "what did I do wrong?" or "how can I avoid getting a time out next time?," but "How do I get out of here?" and "I'm really pissed off and I don't know why."  This is despite the fact that we tell him why he's being put in time out.  The problem is that he's so upset and in such a heightened emotional state, he can't understand us.  He hears us, but the intelligent, comprehending part of his brain is not the part that is engaged when he gets a time out.

So it doesn't work.

There is a lot of screaming. A lot of crying. A lot of pleading and begging. A lot of drama.


There is no evidence of changed behavior after time outs. No, day in and day out, it is nothing but more of the same behavior with the same ineffective means of "discipline," the time out. 

Like I said, time outs don't work for our kid.

And they don't work for my husband and me either...besides the obvious that they have proved to be an ineffective means of behavior correction for The Boy, they increase our anxiety because his anxiety is increased.  He gets upset. We get upset. No real communication occurs in the time out process. Only punishment.  For the whole family.

So we needed a different way.

Enter No-Drama Discipline by by Daniel J. Seigel, M.D., and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.  Seigel is a child psychiatrist.  Bryson is a pediatric therapist/social worker.

In the book, they teach that discipline is not about punishment, but instruction. You teach when you discipline. And when an individual, parent or child, is in a heightened state agitation, no teaching or learning can take place. No discipline occurs.

I'm not going to describe, chapter and verse, what we've done differently. But we don't generally do time outs anymore.  The few times I've resorted to one after reading No Drama Discipline, I've regretted it. It's been just as ineffective as they always were before.  The urge is always there, to just toss him into time out, but I have to remind myself that I need to do what works, not what is easier for me to do in the moment. 

The point of no drama discipline is to connect emotionally and intellectually with the child so that you can calmly give instruction and the child can calmly receive it. If it sounds like more work than a time out, it is. It's a lot more work.  But who said parenting was easy?  And, frankly, I'm happy to put in the extra work to effectively discipline The Boy rather than to continue with the ineffective time outs. 

So instead of time out, we do what my husband has taken to describing as "an aggressive hug."  We sit down with The Boy, and we hold him until he calms down. Sometimes, this involves saying, "I know, I know. I know you want to watch Ninjago right now, I know," (or whatever the issue is). The point is to chill the kid (and yourself) out so that you can proceed with effective instruction.

So when he's calmed down, we redirect his energies and focus onto good behaviors and better choices.  We talk about what happened. We ask him what a better choice would have been. Sometimes, if appropriate and possible, we give him a do-over to make the better decision.  This doesn't mean that he ultimately gets his way all the time. He's still often disappointed. But it does mean that we have engaged him intellectually and emotionally to refocus his brain on appropriate behaviors, responses and problem-solving, rather than heightening in his base, negative emotions that lead to further bad behavior.

Is he a perfect angel?  No.  He's a little boy who is still learning. But his behavior is better, so much better, than it was before we started implementing the No Drama Discipline techniques.  Even his teachers sent a note home last week noting his improved behavior and problem solving skills.  We're seeing real change in his behavior because we changed our response to it.

No drama discipline has worked to bring more calm to our house, and has reduced the number of tamtrums and outburst from The Boy.  He's learning how to use his intellect, rather than his reptilian emotions, to navigate the world.

Does this mean that he won't occasionally burst into singing the Chuck the Truck theme song at volume in the middle of a restaurant? Or throw a tantrum?  Or make pouty demands?  No, because he's three.  He's still learning correct behaviors. But it does mean that our approach to handling that situation will now be more effective at changing the negative behavior.  We're optimistic that more good things are to come.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Breakfast Club

That's right. The movie. 

My husband and I were talking recently (well, a couple of months ago -- I'm just getting around to writing this now) about movie nostalgia, both the nostalgia for movies from a bygone time, and movies that are, themselves, nostalgic for a bygone era (like American Graffiti, for instance, a 1970s movie about the 1950s).

Anyway, naturally, The Breakfast Club came up. 

Because that's THE film for every 80s teen, right?

Before I go on, let's stipulate that it's not a cinematic masterpiece. It's not beautiful. And it's got no groundbreaking cinematography. The actors are good young actors, but no Oscars were handed out here. 

Still, it spoke to us. The "types" depicted by Claire, Brian, Allison, Andrew and John -- the five kids in detention -- were meant to be "us."  We were meant to pick one and identify with him/her. And then, in the end, we were supposed to come together and know that we are all the same because we all have problems and being a teenager is hard. (And we DO, and it IS.)

Laaaa lalalalaaaa lalalalaaaa lala la lala lala lalalaa

When I first saw the movie, I was in a quandary. I wanted to identify with Claire. But I wasn't prom queen material, really.  (At least, I didn't think that I was....)  Truthfully, I should have identified with Brian, but I didn't want to acknowledge the ugly hubris that comes with being a smart kid who knows it. And, ironically, my incredible insecurity (also natural to a lot of smart kids, and teens in general) made acknowledging that insecurity by identifying with Brian impossible. I obviously wasn't a jock or stoner, so Andrew and John Bender were out. So I was left settling for Allison. The Freak. But that was wholly unsatisfying because...well, that scene where she makes it snow on her drawing with her dandruff is gross.  And that wasn't me.  I'd never do that.  I wasn't a freak. I was a Princess Geek. 

So maybe John Hughs was right and we are all a little bit of each character.
I mean, frankly, lately, I've been feeling a little bit like Mr. Vernon, the principal, trapped in his often unsatisfying, stultifying, grown-up existence. Even sometimes I feel like Carl, the Janitor, who dreamt of being John Lennon, but ended up the school janitor.
The movie isn't about several different "types," after all.  It's about one type, one universal human theme:  the desire to break out of whatever existence you've got and feel free, and the related understanding that no matter what existence we may have we all, sometimes, feel a little trapped by it, a little too defined by it.

The movie is, as it turns out, about potential. The five kids are full of it. The two main adult characters (and even the parents), demonstrate what happens to that potential when it hits the air outside of high school. So hope, that's what resonated with us when we watched it almost 30 years ago. Hope that we, the teenagers, would do better than the adults around us did. And, as adults, some of us still are able to dream those dreams, and hope those hopes...even if we've wound up being a little bit like Carl or Mr. Vernon. 
Richard Vernon:  What did you wanna be when you were young?
Carl:  When I was a kid, I wanted to be John Lennon.
Richard Vernon:  Carl, don't be a goof. I'm making a serious point here.

Please abolish these words and phrases.

I'm cranky.  Here, then, I shall crank about languages for a few lines.

1.  "Disruptive/disruption," as in, cutting edge businesses and people are "disruptive."  Being disruptive is supposed to be good but, just like Steve Jobs -- the ur-disruptor -- it can also be kind of annoying, kind of self-important, kind of only-eats-fruit-and-wears-black-turtlenecks.  It's not necessarily all shiny goodness to be disruptive. Moreover, everything "new" is not disruptive.  Some things are merely innovative, which is still cool, right?  We are not all the contingent from Alderaan challenging the Empire every time we have a new idea.

2.  "Eating clean." -- You are not "eating clean."  You are eating healthy food, as defined by someone who may or may not be you. Frankly, I have seen "eating clean" described variously as food that excludes carb and/or fat and/or refined sugar and/or processed foods and/or organic foods.  So ubiquitous is the phrase, therefore, that it has lost whatever sliver of meaning it may have once had.  In other words, the judgy phrase "eating clean," communicates nothing but that you think what's on your plate is better for you than what you used to eat (and perhaps what others around you are presently eating).  "Eating clean" is just another way of saying "I'm on a diet." Just say you're skipping the pasta and dessert, or whatever it is you're doing, else soap be served next dinner. 

3.  "Just sayin'...." -- Yo, just say it, man. No need for that little verbal underline to signal that you think that you're being pithy or snarky or cute or whatever. If you actually were pithy or snarky or cute, we'll know without you "just sayin'" so. 

4.  "Helicopter parent" -- I am not an overprotective parent because I stand close to the monkey bars in case my three year old decides to launch from the height of six feet in the air. I am a parent who would prefer her child not get a concussion. I promise I won't do his homework for him when he's 11.

5.  "Life Hack" -- I get it: tips and tricks to make life easier, but when I hear you say "life hack," I think "life hairball."  Foul phrase....

6.  "The War on ... " --  There is no war on Christmas, Women, Men, Cantaloupes or Persimmons. There IS a war in Syria. And it's scary.  Approaching 200,000 people have died in it, many of them noncombatants, many of them children.  Stop calling your personal offenses "wars" against your favorite things.

7.  "With all due respect...." -- That really just means "F-you," right?

8.  "YOLO" -- Carpe diem. Seize the Latin.

9.  Similarly, "boho."  Just say bohemian.

Aaaaaand....  Well, I'd written the number 10 there thinking I'd surely have an even 10 linguistic crimes to crank about, but there's honestly not a 10th one I wish to abolish. So there. Be gone, Words of Irritance to The Working Mom!

(P.S.  Irritance is not in Merriam-Webster online.  I checked, to see if I'd spelled it correctly.  And replied, "The word you've entered isn't in the dictionary. Click on a spelling suggestion below or try again using the search bar above."  And then it gave me a list of words that I don't want.  These are not words of "radiance," for instance.  So, not a real word?  Hmm.  And yet, it's not on my list of irritating words and phrases and I persist in using it, even though the use of a non-word should by all accounts be pretty annoying.  The Working Mom is a fickle creature.)